The dictionary definition of resilience is: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity. It's a subject of great interest at the moment because many of us are having our ability to "bounce back" tested by the coronavirus.
A model that comes up a lot is Elisabeth Kubler-Ross' five stages of grief theory, which was published in the late 1960's. Her experience with terminally ill patients led her to observe a pattern of thinking that people go through when facing death either themselves or in a loved one. This theory was later found to apply to all kinds of personal loss including disability, redundancy, divorce and financial problems. It's not a linear process: people can go through it at any pace, in any order and often experience cycles of it.
These are the phases:
Image courtesy of Narayana Health
I grew up in a household where logic and rationality were valued and rewarded. Emotions, along with acting in ones own self-interest were seen as disdainful, weak and embarrassing. As a result, I have not only spent decades priding myself on keeping my needs and feelings in check, I believed that getting emotional at work - crying - was up there with the top 3 career killing moves of all time. Something to be avoided at all costs, along with yelling at your boss or turning up drunk (although the severity of this may depend on the company culture and the country you work in!)
Over the years, while I revelled in my skill at remaining rational and unemotional at all costs, especially at work, I began to have nagging doubts about whether the life plan I was following was actually the right one for me. I began to wonder if I was really pursuing my own dreams and whether my goals were truly mine or not. I would torture myself with the question of what would I do if I won the lottery and didn’t need to work for a living. None of the answers I gave myself, other than developing cirrhosis of the liver, seemed genuine and believable. It certainly made me feel a bit pointless.
From time to time, I found myself in a situation that encouraged reflection and consideration of purpose, my instinctive response is that I wanted to get better at “following my heart” - which felt at the time like it was locked away in a inaccessible vault - so that I could understand my purpose in life and be the real me. I tried for many years to spring the lock and get access to my true feelings.
Like the story of the Golden Buddha in Wat Traimit, that was hidden in plain sight by ugly concrete and protected from Burmese invaders, it turns out that my feelings had been plastered over by a ton of beliefs I picked up as a child, that may never have been true and were definitely not useful to me as an adult. A few things have helped me strip back the layers and tune into my heart. I thought I would share them here:
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